It’s all subjective, but we think most New York Yankees fans would agree that the front office passing on one of the marquee free agents once the lockout ends would be a massive disappointment and, in some ways, a failure.
With Carlos Correa, Trevor Story and Freddie Freeman representing clear, superstar upgrades at two positions of need, the opportunity for the Yankees to flex their financial muscles is there. However, this is not the Yankees of yesteryear. This is a new, cost-conscious version of the organization that has failed to get back to the World Series since 2009.
On top of not spending aggressively any longer, the Yankees, when they do open their wallet, seemingly make the wrong choices. Just look at their payroll right now. This roster is arguably the fourth-best in the division and it’s costing them $202 million. Meanwhile, there are holes in the starting rotation and bullpen as well as at first base, shortstop and center field.
That’s a result of out-bidding themselves for Gerrit Cole. That’s a result of them giving Aaron Hicks a seven-year extension. That’s a result of making Aroldis Chapman the highest-paid closer in the game for six straight years. Need we go on?
And just like last offseason, we could see another version of financial gymnastics to keep them under the luxury tax threshold as they pass on the game’s top talent despite needing it.
You’re right, the Yankees do not require the best player in the league at every position, but they do need some sort of injection of talent because this team’s ceiling has proven to be nothing beyond falling short in the ALCS.
Don’t expect the Yankees to sign a star player when the lockout ends.
MLB insider Joel Sherman thinks the Yankees are going to take the safer route and spread their money out across the roster to improve depth, which, in most offseasons, isn’t a terrible idea … but the depth options out there simply aren’t that good, which makes this worrisome.
“I believe the Yankees essentially have three doors in that arena:
1. Sign one of the big shortstops, Carlos Correa or Trevor Story.
2. Sign Freddie Freeman or trade for Oakland’s Matt Olson.
3. Spread money around in multiple areas to deepen the roster.
If I had to bet today, it would be on Door No. 3.
Even that presumes Steinbrenner is going to willingly inject $30 million-$40 million more into the 2022 payroll. I think that is more likely with door No. 3 and several deals, none beyond two years in commitment (remember that Steinbrenner approved a one-year, $25 million offer for Justin Verlander).
The Yanks, as they currently stand, need an injection of depth (minimum) to be viewed as a surer contender.
In that scenario, the simplest solution to complete the positional group would be Anthony Rizzo at first and Andrelton Simmons at short through free agency. Both offer high-end defense. Rizzo provides a lefty bat and big-game pedigree. Gio Urshela is around as a regularly used utilityman who could, when necessary, hit late for Simmons, then play short.”
The other issue is, if we’re talking about improving the outfield, especially to protect the team from an Aaron Hicks injury or underperformance, there are no center field options to help out with that, unless you’re going to move Joey Gallo to center and make a corner outfield addition — something the Yankees have shown no indication of doing. Gallo didn’t log a single inning in center field last year despite the desperate need for an upgrade at the position.
Nobody will take issue with Rizzo returning to play first base, but many would argue that can’t be the move to elevate this team. Pairing him with Andrelton Simmons feels like the ultimate version of settling, especially when they can afford to upgrade a bit more at first base if they want to be that cheap on a shortstop expenditure.
Though there are some developments out there that help the Yankees in regard to Correa, Story and Freeman, Sherman’s pessimism about the Yankees’ unwillingness to add another big contract to the payroll might be the sentiment that reigns supreme after the next collective bargaining agreement is signed.